Palestinians must get their act together in 2012
By Khalid Amayreh
2011 was not a particularly bad year for Palestine. In this year, hundreds of Palestinian political and resistance prisoners were able to see the light, having been released from Israeli dungeons and detention camps.
Needless to say, many of these heroes would have spent the rest of their lives in Zionist jails, had it not been for the so-called Shalit deal and Israel’s effective capitulation to Hamas’s conditions for the release of the captive Zionist soldier.
Thanks to the deal, hundreds of Palestinian families, which had lost the hope for ever seeing their beloved ones alive again, breathed a sigh of relief as they were reunited with their children, brothers, husbands and daughters.
Needless to say, Israel had tried every conceivable effort and intelligence act to locate the captive soldier, but to no avail. After all, Shalit was held under Israel’s nose somewhere in the Gaza Strip for more than 60 months.
This fact alone should make us look with admiration and gratitude to those unknown but heroic soldiers who were able to keep this valuable secret all these months and years.
2011 brought us the Arab Spring, which consigned several tyrannical pro-American regimes to the dustbin of history. Some of these regimes, such as that of ex-president Husni Mubarak of Egypt , had been a serious liability for the Palestinian struggle and steadfastness.
For example, in 2008-09, the Egyptian regime colluded, connived and collaborated with the Zionist entity to murder, torment and vanquish the Gaza Strip, enabling Israel to carry out its Nazi-like onslaught on the virtually unprotected coastal territory, killing, incinerating and maiming thousands of Palestinians men, women and children.
More to the point, the regime sought effectively to consolidate the criminal Israeli siege on Gaza, by building another concrete wall to make it virtually impossible for Gazans to smuggle even a pack of milk from the Egyptian side of the borders to their starving children on the other side.
Hence, the removal of that regime is considered a great victory for both the Egyptian and Palestinian peoples, for the Egyptians because the corrupt Mubarak regime suppressed human rights and civil liberties in deference to Israeli and American interests, and for the Palestinians because the regime was viewed as a strategic asset for the Zionist regime since it allowed the Zionist entity to savage the Palestinians in exchange for American aid and political protection.
The elections that occurred in Tunisia and Egypt were also auspicious news for the Palestinian cause. The triumph of Islamic or quasi-Islamic parties, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, is probably some of the best news the Palestinian cause and people have received in many decades.
True, we don’t expect to see miracles very soon as a result of the Arab Spring. However, there is no doubt that the strategic changes taking place in the Arab world have confused and unsettled Israel’s strategic calculations in the region.
Israel, which is becoming a fully-fledged fascist state, had probably planned to embark on unthinkable measures against the Palestinians, possibly including genocidal massacres, induced emigration and ethnic cleansing.
However, thanks to the Arab Spring, especially the Egyptian revolution, Israel is very likely to think twice before pursuing its lebensraum policy against its neighbors.
The end of 2011 also brought the Palestinian people much closer to national reconciliation and unity.
Hamas agreed to join the PLO and all the sides agreed to form a government of national unity, release political prisoners and hold elections for the Palestinian Authority (PA) as well as for the Palestinian National Council.
What is especially important is that the psychology of the Palestinian people improved significantly during 2011 despite unrelenting Zionist aggressions and provocations.
None the less, there is much to be done in 2012. The National reconciliation must materialize on the ground and ordinary Palestinians must feel its tangible effects.
However, It is probably unlikely that true national unity between Fatah and Hamas will be achievable unless the PA and the Ramallah regime end the ignominious cooperation and coordination with the Zionist occupation army.
Indeed, the security coordination has been a sad chapter in recent Palestinian history and it must be ended sooner than later.
Moreover, with the unmitigated theft of Palestinian land continuing at the hands of the Zionist regime, the PA should have the courage to declare the end of the mendacious peace process.
Yes, dismantling the PA infrastructure may not seem easily done as said. However, if it becomes clear that the existence of the PA militates against and hinders the establishment of a viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian state, then Palestinian leaders must not flinch from embarking on dissolving the PA. After all the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is the raison d’etre of the PA itself, as PA official Sa’eb Erikat said on several occasions.
In any case, the Palestinian leadership should stop playing games with the fate and destiny of the Palestinian people and cause.
We have indulged in futile political games too much and for too long, and must therefore come to the hour of truth.
And reaching the hour of truth should also mean a realization that the creation of a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank, one with Jerusalem as its capital, is no longer a realistic option given the phenomenal spread of Jewish colonies.
Hence, the Palestinian leadership, including Fatah and Hamas, must get its act together in 2012 and make sure it is not going to be another year of futile waiting.
Israel approves East Jerusalem settlements
Jerusalem municipality approves construction of 130 homes in a move Palestinians say would further isolate Bethlehem.
The Jerusalem municipality has approved the construction of 130 new homes in illegal settlements in the east of the city.
The homes are to be built in Gilo neighbourhood on land captured from Jordan in the 1967 war.
Municipal spokesman Stephan Miller said on Wednesday the construction was approved by the city’s planning committee after the period to lodge objections to it had ended.
Israel regards West Jerusalem and occupied East Jerusalem as part of one united city. Housing applications there are dealt with on municipal level, usually without any government intervention.
However, the international community sees East Jerusalem as occupied territory, with the same status as the West Bank, and decries unilateral Israeli moves there.
The latest construction approval came 10 days after Israel raised international and Palestinian ire by including three locations in and near East Jerusalem in plans to build 600 homes.
Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and object vigorously to any Israeli construction there.
The Palestinian Authority has said it will not resume direct peace talks until and unless Israel halts all construction in its West Bank settlements and in East Jerusalem.
The Gilo project received initial approval in November 2010, in a move the Palestinians said was an attempt to further isolate Bethlehem from east Jerusalem. Gilo lies just a few kilometres north of Bethlehem.
‘New Year message’
Wednesday’s approval did little to improve the mood between Israel and the Palestinians, who have not sat down for face-to-face talks for more than a year after direct negotiations collapsed following a dispute over settlements.
“I guess this is the New Year message that the government of Israel is sending us for 2012: ‘We will continue destroying the peace process and killing the two-state solution through continuing and escalating settlement activity’,” Saeb Erakat, a Palestinian negotiator, said.
“The Quartet and the international community must hold the government of Israel fully responsible for these policies if they want to save the peace process and the two-state solution.”
The Middle East Quartet, which includes top European Union, United States, United Nations and Russian diplomats, has been urging the two sides to return to direct negotiations with next to no success, with each party blaming the other for sabotaging peace efforts.
Last week, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal issued a joint statement condemning Israel’s accelerated settlement building, saying it sent a “devastating” message, and urged the Jewish state to reverse the plans.
On November 1, Israel’s inner cabinet decided to speed up construction of homes for Jews in Arab east Jerusalem and in other nearby settlements allegedly to punish the Palestinians for winning membership in the UN cultural agency, UNESCO.
Since then, Israel has issued announcements for 2,057 new homes in Arab east Jerusalem and 1,241 in the West Bank, official figures show.
More than 310,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, and the number is constantly growing.
Another 200,000 live in a dozen illegal settlement neighbourhoods in east Jerusalem.
Recognize Armenian Shoah
Op-ed: With Turkey ties at nadir, time is right to finally recognize Armenian tragedy
Open letter from Gaza: Three years after the massacre, justice or nothing!
We, Palestinians of Gaza, 3 years on from the 22-day long massacre in Israel’s operation ‘Cast Lead’, are calling on international civil society to make 2012 the year when solidarity with us in Palestine captures the spark of the revolutions around the Arab world and never looks back. On this anniversary we demand an international liberation movement that eventually leads to just that, liberation for us Palestinians from 63 years of brutal military occupation and ethnic cleansing that pours shame on any organisation or government claiming to endorse universal human rights.
We will never forget the hurt of 3 years ago, the criminal onslaught that we lived through, the blood of over 1400 murdered men, women and hundreds of children running through the streets of Gaza, between the rubble, soaking our beds and etched on our minds. We will never forget. For they are still dead, and thousands more are still maimed.
We will never forget the last 63 years during which our land, homes, olive groves, lemon trees and cherished way of life was taken away from us, while Israeli soldiers held our fathers’ faces in the sands, imprisoned them, or shot them in front of us. We will not forget the sickening cowardice of the international community that has allowed and enabled this ethnic cleansing of our people, subjecting us to Israel’s racist Zionist vision that defines us, the indigenous people of Palestine, as the undesired ‘ethnic group’ for the region.
The US continues to ‘reward’ Israel with 6 billion dollars of tax-payers money while the EU increases its trade and diplomatic relations. For the Israeli apartheid regime this translates as the green light to unleash the 4th most powerful military on us to ‘do its worst’ against our civilian population, of which over half in Gaza are children and over 2 thirds are UN registered refugees.
In recent years, civil society and solidarity movements throughout the world have grown in their support for us, especially in 2011. As the world wakes up, the prospect of life without Israeli occupation and its system of race-based subjugation becomes more than a dream. We demand simply, human rights that anyone else would expect. This year, the first taste of liberation in the Western controlled Arab world arrived in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Many of those who took to the streets moved beyond their fear of being killed or tortured, facing up to the despotic, Western-backed regimes in the name of freedom for their families, communities and compatriots.
We will never forget them too, as we have lived much of our lives beyond this fear, our resilience against Israeli apartheid growing as the solidarity movements around the world grow. No longer under the boot of Western governments we urge the Arab street to do what the Israeli Apartheid Regime fears the most, to unite and build against them, the state that has violated more United Nations resolutions than any other. The siege breaking attempts into Gaza must continue, the second Free Gaza Flotilla exposed again the brutal and merciless edge of Israel’s hermetic siege.
In Europe and America the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement is reaching the mainstream. Huge victories have included campaigns against waste and transport infrastructure firm Veolia who build transport routes on Israeli occupied lands. Inspired and supported by Nobel Prize winner and anti apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the University of Johannesburg ended its collaboration with Ben Gurion University in Israel. Other University campuses are pursuing boycott campaigns and major European Trade Unions have broken ties with Israeli Trade Unions. And a growing number of conscientious artists and singers are refusing to perform in Israel.
All over Israeli internet sites and in government policy are attempts to deter the growing BDS movement,an international strategy that succeeded against a similarly well-armed, Western affiliated apartheid regime in South Africa.
The effect worldwide of the Gaza massacres 3 years ago was a catalyst for a huge rise in worldwide solidarity and action in support of Palestine, just as the South African Sharpeville massacre was for South African blacks in 1960.
Our call this year will accept no compromise. We call upon all Palestine solidarity groups and all international civil society organizations to demand:
- An end to the siege that has been imposed on the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of their exercise of democratic choice.
- The protection of civilian lives and property, as stipulated in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law such as The Fourth Geneva Convention.
- The immediate release of all political prisoners.
- That Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip be immediately provided with financial and material support to cope with the immense hardship that they are experiencing
- An end to occupation, Apartheid and other war crimes with immediate reparations and compensation for all destruction carried out by the Israeli Occupation Forces in Gaza.
For us, the sacrifices for resisting have often meant imprisonment, torture, collective punishment and death. Outside, the risks are lower, but with great possibility. We call on you to Boycott Divest and Sanction, join the many International Trade Unions, Universities, Supermarkets and artists and writers who refuse to entertain Apartheid Israel. Speak out for Palestine, for Gaza, and crucially ACT. There has never been a time when mobilizations are gaining such support. 1994 was the year of South Africa when Apartheid was thrown into the dustbin of history; with your support we can make 2012 the year of free Palestine!
THE TIME IS NOW!
List of signatories:
General Union for Public Services Workers
General Union for Health Services Workers
University Teachers’ Association
Palestinian Congregation for Lawyers
General Union for Petrochemical and Gas Workers
General Union for Agricultural Workers
Union of Women’s Work Committees
Union of Synergies—Women Unit
The One Democratic State Group
Arab Cultural Forum
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel
Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Info
Palestine Sailing Federation
Palestinian Association for Fishing and Maritime
Palestinian Women Committees
Progressive Students’ Union
Medical Relief Society
The General Society for Rehabilitation
General Union of Palestinian Women
Afaq Jadeeda Cultural Centre for Women and Children
Deir Al-Balah Cultural Centre for Women and Children
Maghazi Cultural Centre for Children
Al-Sahel Centre for Women and Youth
Ghassan Kanfani Kindergartens
Rachel Corrie Centre, Rafah
Rafah Olympia City Sisters
Al Awda Centre, Rafah
Al Awda Hospital, Jabaliya Camp
Ajyal Association, Gaza
General Union of Palestinian Syndicates
Al Karmel Centre, Nuseirat
Local Initiative, Beit Hanoun
Union of Health Work Committees
Red Crescent Society Gaza Strip
Beit Lahiya Cultural Centre
Al Awda Centre, Rafah
A Christmas Message From America’s Rich
By Matt Taibbi
t seems America’s bankers are tired of all the abuse. They’ve decided to speak out.
True, they’re doing it from behind the ropeline, in front of friendly crowds at industry conferences and country clubs, meaning they don’t have to look the rest of America in the eye when they call us all imbeciles and complain that they shouldn’t have to apologize for being so successful.
But while they haven’t yet deigned to talk to protesting America face to face, they are willing to scribble out some complaints on notes and send them downstairs on silver trays. Courtesy of a remarkable story by Max Abelson at Bloomberg, we now get to hear some of those choice comments.
Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, for instance, is not worried about OWS:
“Who gives a crap about some imbecile?” Marcus said. “Are you kidding me?”
Former New York gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano, the billionaire owner of the billing firm Paychex, offered his wisdom while his half-his-age tennis champion girlfriend hung on his arm:
“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit,” said Golisano, who turned 70 last month, celebrating the birthday with girlfriend Monica Seles, the former tennis star who won nine Grand Slam singles titles.
Then there’s Leon Cooperman, the former chief of Goldman Sachs’s money-management unit, who said he was urged to speak out by his fellow golfers. His message was a version of Wall Street’s increasingly popular If-you-people-want-a-job, then-you’ll-shut-the-fuck-up rhetorical line:
Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.
“You’ll get more out of me,” the billionaire said, “if you treat me with respect.”
Finally, there is this from Blackstone CEO Steven Schwarzman:
Asked if he were willing to pay more taxes in a Nov. 30 interview with Bloomberg Television, Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman spoke about lower-income U.S. families who pay no income tax.
“You have to have skin in the game,” said Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”
There are obviously a great many things that one could say about this remarkable collection of quotes. One could even, if one wanted, simply savor them alone, without commentary, like lumps of fresh caviar, or raw oysters.
But out of Abelson’s collection of doleful woe-is-us complaints from the offended rich, the one that deserves the most attention is Schwarzman’s line about lower-income folks lacking “skin in the game.” This incredible statement gets right to the heart of why these people suck.
Why? It’s not because Schwarzman is factually wrong about lower-income people having no “skin in the game,” ignoring the fact that everyone pays sales taxes, and most everyone pays payroll taxes, and of course there are property taxes for even the lowliest subprime mortgage holders, and so on.
It’s not even because Schwarzman probably himself pays close to zero in income tax – as a private equity chief, he doesn’t pay income tax but tax on carried interest, which carries a maximum 15% tax rate, half the rate of a New York City firefighter.
The real issue has to do with the context of Schwarzman’s quote. The Blackstone billionaire, remember, is one of the more uniquely abhorrent, self-congratulating jerks in the entire world – a man who famously symbolized the excesses of the crisis era when, just as the rest of America was heading into a recession, he threw himself a $5 million birthday party, featuring private performances by Rod Stewart and Patti Labelle, to celebrate an IPO that made him $677 million in a matter of days (within a year, incidentally, the investors who bought that stock would lose three-fourths of their investments).
So that IPO birthday boy is now standing up and insisting, with a straight face, that America’s problem is that compared to taxpaying billionaires like himself, poor people are not invested enough in our society’s future. Apparently, we’d all be in much better shape if the poor were as motivated as Steven Schwarzman is to make America a better place.
But it seems to me that if you’re broke enough that you’re not paying any income tax, you’ve got nothing but skin in the game. You’ve got it all riding on how well America works.
You can’t afford private security: you need to depend on the police. You can’t afford private health care: Medicare is all you have. You get arrested, you’re not hiring Davis, Polk to get you out of jail: you rely on a public defender to negotiate a court system you’d better pray deals with everyone from the same deck. And you can’t hire landscapers to manicure your lawn and trim your trees: you need the garbage man to come on time and you need the city to patch the potholes in your street.
And in the bigger picture, of course, you need the state and the private sector both to be functioning well enough to provide you with regular work, and a safe place to raise your children, and clean water and clean air.
The entire ethos of modern Wall Street, on the other hand, is complete indifference to all of these matters. The very rich on today’s Wall Street are now so rich that they buy their own social infrastructure. They hire private security, they live on gated mansions on islands and other tax havens, and most notably, they buy their own justice and their own government.
An ordinary person who has a problem that needs fixing puts a letter in the mail to his congressman and sends it to stand in a line in some DC mailroom with thousands of others, waiting for a response.
But citizens of the stateless archipelago where people like Schwarzman live spend millions a year lobbying and donating to political campaigns so that they can jump the line. They don’t need to make sure the government is fulfilling its customer-service obligations, because they buy special access to the government, and get the special service and the metaphorical comped bottle of VIP-room Cristal afforded to select customers.
Want to lower the capital reserve requirements for investment banks? Then-Goldman CEO Hank Paulson takes a meeting with SEC chief Bill Donaldson, and gets it done. Want to kill an attempt to erase the carried interest tax break? Guys like Schwarzman, and Apollo’s Leon Black, and Carlyle’s David Rubenstein, they just show up in Washington at Max Baucus’s doorstep, and they get it killed.
Some of these people take that VIP-room idea a step further. J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon – the man the New York Times once called “Obama’s favorite banker” – had an excellent method of guaranteeing that the Federal Reserve system’s doors would always be open to him. What he did was, he served as the Chairman of the Board of the New York Fed.
And in 2008, in that moonlighting capacity, he orchestrated a deal in which the Fed provided $29 billion in assistance to help his own bank, Chase, buy up the teetering investment firm Bear Stearns. You read that right: Jamie Dimon helped give himself a bailout. Who needs to worry about good government, when you arethe government?
Dimon, incidentally, is another one of those bankers who’s complaining now about the unfair criticism. “Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I don’t understand it,” he recently said, at an investor’s conference.
Hmm. Is Dimon right? Do people hate him just because he’s rich and successful? That really would be unfair. Maybe we should ask the people of Jefferson County, Alabama, what they think.
That particular locality is now in bankruptcy proceedings primarily because Dimon’s bank, Chase, used middlemen to bribe local officials – literally bribe, with cash and watches and new suits – to sign on to a series of onerous interest-rate swap deals that vastly expanded the county’s debt burden.
Essentially, Jamie Dimon handed Birmingham, Alabama a Chase credit card and then bribed its local officials to run up a gigantic balance, leaving future residents and those residents’ children with the bill. As a result, the citizens of Jefferson County will now be making payments to Chase until the end of time.
Do you think Jamie Dimon would have done that deal if he lived in Jefferson County? Put it this way: if he was trying to support two kids on $30,000 a year, and lived in a Birmingham neighborhood full of people in the same boat, would he sign off on a deal that jacked up everyone’s sewer bills 400% for the next thirty years?
Doubtful. But then again, people like Jamie Dimon aren’t really citizens of any country. They live in their own gated archipelago, and the rest of the world is a dumping ground.
Just look at how Chase behaved in Greece, for example.
Having seen how well interest-rate swaps worked for Jefferson County, Alabama, Chase “helped” Greece mask its debt problem for years by selling a similar series of swaps to the Greek government. The bank then turned around and worked with banks like Goldman, Sachs to create a thing called the iTraxx SovX Western Europe index, which allowed investors to bet against Greek debt.
In other words, Chase knowingly larded up the nation of Greece with a crippling future debt burden, then turned around and helped the world bet against Greek debt.
Does a citizen of Greece do that deal? Forget that: does a human being do that deal?
Operations like the Greek swap/short index maneuver were easy money for banks like Goldman and Chase – hell, it’s a no-lose play, like cutting a car’s brake lines and then betting on the driver to crash – but they helped create the monstrous European debt problem that this very minute is threatening to send the entire world economy into collapse, which would result in who knows what horrors. At minimum, millions might lose their jobs and benefits and homes. Millions more will be ruined financially.
But why should Chase and Goldman care what happens to those people? Do they have any skin in that game?
Of course not. We’re talking about banks that not only didn’t warn the citizens of Greece about their future debt disaster, they actively traded on that information, to make money for themselves.
People like Dimon, and Schwarzman, and John Paulson, and all of the rest of them who think the “imbeciles” on the streets are simply full of reasonless class anger, they don’t get it. Nobody hates them for being successful. And not that this needs repeating, but nobody even minds that they are rich.
What makes people furious is that they have stopped being citizens.
Most of us 99-percenters couldn’t even let our dogs leave a dump on the sidewalk without feeling ashamed before our neighbors. It’s called having a conscience: even though there are plenty of things most of us could get away with doing, we just don’t do them, because, well, we live here. Most of us wouldn’t take a million dollars to swindle the local school system, or put our next door neighbors out on the street with a robosigned foreclosure, or steal the life’s savings of some old pensioner down the block by selling him a bunch of worthless securities.
But our Too-Big-To-Fail banks unhesitatingly take billions in bailout money and then turn right around and finance the export of jobs to new locations in China and India. They defraud the pension funds of state workers into buying billions of their crap mortgage assets. They take zero-interest loans from the state and then lend that same money back to us at interest. Or, like Chase, they bribe the politicians serving countries and states and cities and even school boards to take on crippling debt deals.
Nobody with real skin in the game, who had any kind of stake in our collective future, would do any of those things. Or, if a person did do those things, you’d at least expect him to have enough shame not to whine to a Bloomberg reporter when the rest of us complained about it.
But these people don’t have shame. What they have, in the place where most of us have shame, are extra sets of balls. Just listen to Cooperman, the former Goldman exec from that country club in Boca. According to Cooperman, the rich do contribute to society:
Capitalists “are not the scourge that they are too often made out to be” and the wealthy aren’t “a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot,” Cooperman wrote. They make products that “fill store shelves at Christmas…”
Unbelievable. Merry Christmas, bankers. And good luck getting that message out.
Palestinian Authority officials say attendance at the annual Christmas eve tradition was the highest in decades. The Israeli army estimated that 100,000 visitors entered the city.
Earlier today, an Israeli military sniper opened fire at demonstrators in the village of Nabi Saleh, injuring one in the thigh. The wounded protester was evacuated by a Red Crescent ambulance to the Salfit hospital. The incident takes place only two weeks after the fatal shooting of Mustafa Tamimi at the very same spot. Additionally, a Palestinian journalist was injured in his leg by a tear-gas projectile shot directly at him, and two Israeli protesters were arrested.
Protester evacuated after being shot with live ammo in Nabi Saleh today. Picture credit: Oren Ziv/ActiveStills
The protester was hit by 0.22″ caliber munitions, which military regulations forbid using in the dispersal of demonstrations. Late in 2001, Judge Advocate General, Menachem Finkelstein, reclassified 0.22″ munitions as live ammunition, and specifically forbade its use as a crowd control means. The reclassification was decided upon following numerous deaths of Palestinian demonstrators, mostly children.
Despite this fact, the Israeli military resumed using the 0.22″ munitions to disperse demonstrations in the West Bank in the wake of Operation Cast Lead. Since then at least two Palestinian demonstrators have been killed by 0.22″ fire:
- Az a-Din al-Jamal, age 14, was killed on 13 February 2009, in Hebron,
- Aqel Sror, age 35, was killed on 5 June 2009, in Ni’lin.
Following the death of Aqel Srour, JAG Brig. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit reasserted that 0.22″ munitions “are not classified by the IDF as means for dispersing demonstrations or public disturbances. The rules for use of these means in Judea and Samaria are stringent, and comparable to the rules for opening fire with ‘live’ ammunition.“
Contrary to the army’s official position, permissive use of 0.22″ munitions against demonstrators continues in non life-threatening situations.
Late in 2009, settlers began gradually taking over Ein al-Qaws (the Bow Spring), which rests on lands belonging to Bashir Tamimi, the head of the Nabi Saleh village council. The settlers, abetted by the army, erected a shed over the spring, renamed it Maayan Meir, after a late settler, and began driving away Palestinians who came to use the spring by force – at times throwing stones or even pointing guns at them, threatening to shoot.
While residents of Nabi Saleh have already endured decades of continuous land grab and expulsion to allow for the ever continuing expansion of the Halamish settlement, the takeover of the spring served as the last straw that lead to the beginning of the village’s grassroots protest campaign of weekly demonstrations in demand for the return of their lands.
Protest in the tiny village enjoys the regular support of Palestinians from surrounding areas, as well as that of Israeli and international activists. Demonstrations in Nabi Saleh are also unique in the level of women participation in them, and the role they hold in all their aspects, including organizing. Such participation, which often also includes the participation of children reflects the village’s commitment to a truly popular grassroots mobilization, encompassing all segments of the community.
The response of the Israeli military to the protests has been especially brutal and includes regularly laying complete siege on village every Friday, accompanied by the declaration of the entire village, including the built up area, as a closed military zone. Prior and during the demonstrations themselves, the army often completely occupies the village, in effect enforcing an undeclared curfew. Military nighttime raids and arrest operations are also a common tactic in the army’s strategy of intimidation, often targeting minors.
In order to prevent the villagers and their supporters from exercising their fundamental right to demonstrate and march to their lands, soldiers regularly use disproportional force against the unarmed protesters. The means utilized by the army to hinder demonstrations include, but are not limited to, the use of tear-gas projectiles, banned high-velocity tear-gas projectiles, rubber-coated bullets and, at times, even live ammunition.
The use of such practices have already caused countless injuries, several of them serious, including those of children – the most serious of which is that of 14 year-old Ehab Barghouthi, who was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet from short range on March 5th, 2010 and laid comatose in the hospital for three weeks.
Tear-gas, as well as a foul liquid called “The Skunk”, which is shot from a water cannon, is often used inside the built up area of the village, or even directly pointed into houses, in a way that allows no refuge for the uninvolved residents of the village, including children and the elderly. The interior of at least one house caught fire and was severely damaged after soldiers shot a tear-gas projectile through its windows.
Since December 2009, when protest in the village was sparked, hundreds of demonstration-related injuries caused by disproportionate military violence have been recorded in Nabi Saleh.
Between January 2010 and June 2011, the Israeli Army has carried 76 arrests of people detained for 24 hours or more on suspicions related to protest in the village of Nabi Saleh, including those of women and of children as young as 11 years old. Of the 76, 18 were minors. Dozens more were detained for shorter periods.
Canada: Israelis arrested for illegal work
Canadian border authority detain Israeli nationals working without permit in mall carts; punishment includes $1,000 fine, deportation
*Border Authorities and detectives at the Halifax District Police in Canada arrested Israeli citizens who illegally worked in mall carts around the country, Canadian network CBC reported on Saturday.
According to a report published on the internet site of Shalom Toronto, dozens of Israelis were arrested during raids in apartments and three malls in the country, and they are scheduled for deportation. They might also be barred from entering the United States in the future.
A Canadian Border Authority spokesperson stated that the arrests were carried out as part of an extensive campaign tracking immigrants and refugees who illegally seek employment in Canada. According to the spokesperson, 10 people were arrested during the latest raid, on suspicion of violating immigration laws.
Two men and two women have already been brought in front of a judge and were accused of working without permit. One of the men demanded to have a translator present during the hearing, while the other man reportedly demanded to meet with another lawyer.
The two women pleaded guilty and were fined $1,000 each. One of the women, who arrived to Canada in August, presented the court with a work permit; however the local police claimed the document were forged.
The police said six other people will be brought in front of a judge, but did not disclose their nationalities. During the hearing, the presiding judge suggested that Jewish organizations and the Israeli Consulate should assist the detainees.
The Shalom Toronto website reported that Canada and the United States approved in the beginning of December a plan to increase security cooperation at border crossings. According to the agreement, the two states will share information on foreign nationals whose visas were denied or were denied entry into one of the countries. As part of the agreement, the countries will notify each other of any Israelis and other foreign nationals who were deported due to illegal employment or other reasons.
By Richard (RJ) Eskow
It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe in God or which faith you follow if you do. Here’s a question worth asking this holiday season: Would Jesus be an Occupy demonstrator?
The Bible suggests that He would.
Radio Free Heaven
A few years ago I was driving through the back roads of Alabama listening to Christian radio and I heard a preacher say that “Satan’s name in the world today is ‘God As I Understand Him.’
” Oh, yes, people,” the preacher said, “You hear his name on a lot of people’s lips: ‘God As I Understand Him’ loves everybody. ‘God As I Understand Him’ hates prejudice. ‘God As I Understand Him’ will let you into Heaven if you’re a good person.”
“But know this, my friends,” said the preacher. “When you hear the phrase ‘God As I Understand Him’ you’re hearing someone invoke the name of Satan.”
As the white Southern Baptist railed against liberalism I came to a little town where poor African American women were carrying heavy parcels in the blistering August heat. I saw men lined up outside an unemployment office and people waiting for buses in the blistering sun. I saw run-down shacks, closed storefronts, and vacant lots.
The preacher was saying that God can only be found through institutionalized churches, the kind that tell their followers how to vote. As he droned on I saw hunger, deprivation, and poverty all around me.
God – as I understand him – wouldn’t like that. As William Blake once wrote, “That Vision of Christ which thou dos’t see/is my Vision’s greatest Enemy.”
The Power and the Glory
Look, I’m just as sick as other people are of seeing the word “Occupy” appropriated for everything from partisan politics to self-promotion. But it’s hard to describe Jesus’ action against the moneychangers in today’s terms without calling it “Occupy the Temple.”
By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey accompanied only by his ragged followers, Jesus was proclaiming a spiritual insurrection of the poor and common people – the 99%, if you prefer – against the wealthy and privileged. When he came to the Temple he overturned the moneychangers’ tables and drove them from sacred ground with a “whip of cords.”
A“whip of cords.” And all that today’s protestors are doing is making themselves visible. There’s no violence against anyone. And yet the howls of outrage can be heard from the oak-lined boardrooms of Wall Street to the hypocritical pulpits of right-wing preachers.
Jesus was trying to reclaim his Jewish faith, the faith of his nation, from a clique of clergymen who had colluded with the unjust government of their day for their own purposes. The Romans and the clergy formed a cynical alliance designed to increase their own power and influence by serving the few at the expense of the many.
The Last Drum Circle
Today’s financial elite isn’t satisfied just to make billions at the expense of others. They want to be immune from criticism, too. Goldman Sachs’ CEO says it’s “doing God’s work.” An investment banker desecrates the memory of the Holocaust’s victims by saying that asking him to pay the same tax rates as a cop or firefighter would be like Hitler invading Poland.
They wouldn’t like the messages in the Old or New Testaments or the Talmud. These holy books are all pretty clear in their assessment of unproductive wealth. The prophet Ezekiel put usury on his list of “abominable things.” Jesus drove the moneylenders away with that whip.
Sarah Palin says that “US law should be based on the God of the Bible.” As they say, Be careful what you wish for. That’s why I asked my friend Sudeep Johnson1 to create this picture, which she so artfully did by improvising on a painting of The Last Supper:
Some people may find it sacrilegious to depict Jesus and His disciples in a drum circle protesting the 1% of their time. But if you read the New Testament with an open mind, it’s not hard to conclude that the real sacrilege is to use the name of Jesus to support wealth, power, and privilege. God as they understand him bears no relationship to the one we find in Scripture.
Eye of the Needle
Like any good Jewish mother, Mary liked to brag about her son’s talents and his lineage. In Luke 1 she says of God the Father,
51 … he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
That’s the Mother of God talking, people! And yes, Bill O’Reilly, I mean you! You’re a Catholic like my mother’s mother. How can you disregard the Mother of God?
And you can almost hear the conservative Christian preachers gasping: Does she mean the job creators? She certainly means the people they call “job creators.” Her son said “it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven.” (And as an aside: If they’re “job creators,” where are the jobs?)
The Faith Stealers
The Jesus who turned water into wine was undercutting the official clergy, telling his followers that every individual could have a personal experience with the transcendent. In other words, he was urging them to discover divinity directly by experiencing “God as they understand him.” Would Jesus recognize those who speak in his name? Or would he say “Depart, I never knew you”?
Most scholars agree that there was a historical Jesus, whose life and death was noted by the Roman historian Josephus in the year 75 CE. Moderate Christians see him as the Son of God who clothed the homeless, healed the sick, and fed the hungry.Many Jews accept him as a great Jewish teacher. Muslims revere him as a prophet. Hindus see him as an avatar of God.
There are also many atheists and agnostics who accept him as a great moral leader. “I wouldn’t want to live in a world where the Sermon on the Mount didn’t exist,” said prominent atheist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Jackson Browne sang of himself as “a pagan who stands with the Rebel Jesus.”
This is the time of year when those of us who revere him in these different ways are told we must submit to an endless barrage of messages about their authoritarian, right-wing Jesus. If we don’t, we’re told that we’re part of a “War On Christmas.”
The Christmas War
If they’re looking for a war on their Christmas, we say Bring it on! Whenever they spout their distorted, politicized sermons, why not hit ’em with the Christmas Love Gun? Here’s how to use it:
When they complain about extending unemployment or helping the poor, tell them to reread Matthew 25:31-46, then ponder the fiery fate of those who refuse to feed or clothe the hungry and heal prisoners when they’re sick.
When they talk about protecting bankers, remind them about Ezekiel and those moneylenders in the Temple.
When they bitch about taxes of the size of government, quote that line about “Rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.”
When they push their Islamophobia, remind them that the Good Samaritan was also from a hated religion, but after Jesus explained his goodness the “Samaritan” label became synonymous with good deeds.
When they push their outmoded drug laws, remind them that Jesus said “It’s not what goes into a man’s mouth that defileth him but what comes out of it.”
- When they push war, send them to Mathew 5:9. Then offer them your cheek. If they strike it, offer them the other one also.And if they ask you what you think you’re doing by quoting the scriptures they consider “theirs,” tell them you’re Occupying the spirit of Christmas. Or rather, that you’re letting the spirit of Christmas occupy you. It won’t change their minds, but it might make you feel a lot better.Time of the SeasonThere’s something beautiful about a time of year set aside for reflection on greater things, and for kind words and deeds to others. If it’s gentler on you to hear the words “Happy Holidays,” then may your holidays be happy.But if you don’t mind re-occupying the language of the spirit and reinfusing it with its original meaning, here’s our heartfelt greeting for the season:
May your Christmas be joyful, and your New Year filled with good tidings of insurrection.
Page by page, Marwan Barghouti’s anti-war tome walked out of prison
Barghouti is a figure of towering reverence among Palestinians and even some Israelis, regardless of political persuasion. Yet, he was reluctant to begin a life in the political spotlight. In fact, the Israeli occupation came to him, his long-time friend Sa’ad Nimer noted during a long conversation in a dank Ramallah coffee shop. When Barghouti was just 15, living in the small village of Kober just outside Ramallah, Israeli soldiers shot his beloved dog during a military sweep of the village. From that moment on, Nimer said in a haze of nostalgia, the occupation was a personal issue for Barghouti.
A natural leader with admirable charisma and an unwavering hatred of Israeli occupation, Barghouti has been an active political leader since the early 1980s. At age 18, during one of his early stints in an Israeli prison for political organising, he was elected the prisoner representative, a task which required him to unify competing political affiliations of prisoners and negotiate with Israeli authorities. The appointment foreshadowed a long career of uniting Palestinians regardless of political agenda.
Despite his vocal support for the two-state solution and attempts at reconciliation with Israeli civil society, Barghouti has remained a puzzling and aggressive figure for Israel. “When Marwan got out of jail the second time [in 1982 at age 23], the Israelis did not know what to do with him,” said Nimer, who is the director of the Free Marwan Baghouti Campaign based in Ramallah. In the early 1980s, Barghouti was a primary organiser in the Shabibia movement, a Fatah-based student group that campaigned for better education standards in Palestine. The movement, still active in the West Bank, was a primary organising vehicle of the First Intifada.
While not overtly against the occupation, Barghouti’s early political activity was understood by Israel as a threat and he was deported to Jordan under extraordinary circumstances. According to Nimer, “Jordan was not taking deportees at the time, so the Israelis just put him on a helicopter and dropped him into the middle of the Jordanian desert, desperate to get rid of him”.
From Jordan, Barghouti helped organise the First Intifada, relaying messages and tactics to Palestinians, mostly aligned with Shabibia, in the West Bank. After the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1994 he returned to the West Bank as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the parliament of the Palestinian Authority, and embraced the peace process wholeheartedly.
During his time as a PLC member, he maintained a tough stance on corruption inside Palestinian politics and won himself many enemies in the upper echelons of power in the West Bank and Gaza. Unlike many of his colleagues in the PLC, Barghouti was never appointed to public office and derived his political capital directly from the people who consistently provided him with strong electoral results.
For Kadoura Fares, the current president of the Palestinian Prisoners Association and former member of the PLC, Barghouti’s pragmatic approach to peace during the 1990s demonstrated his overarching desire to end Israeli occupation at all costs. “We had a meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem in 1996,” Fares told me in his comfortable Ramallah office adorned with paintings of the Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish. “I was very worried because of the negative reaction of many Palestinians towards meeting with the Israelis, but Marwan calmed me down. He told me that it was the time for peace and we must pursue it despite the public pressure. He would always say that there is a time for peace and a time for resistance. It was a time for peace.”
When Oslo collapsed and the Second Intifada engulfed Israel and the Palestinian territories in violence, Barghouti embraced armed resistance. He assumed a leadership position in Fatah’s armed wing, coordinating attacks against the Israeli military in the West Bank and Israeli civilians in Tel Aviv. It is for these activities that Israelis understand Barghouti as a terrorist leader. His friends and colleagues maintain that his support of armed resistance as a vehicle to achieving an end to occupation was in line with the popular sentiments expressed on the street at the time.
“He got credibility for supporting armed resistance from the Palestinian street,” recalls Laila Jamal, a member of the Palestinian Authority’s media department from the village of Salfit in the central West Bank. “During that time, we saw the occupation in action and everyone supported armed resistance. He understood this and acted in line with the popular sentiment.”
Barghouti was arrested by Israeli forces conducting sweeps in Ramallah in April 2002 while he was a sitting member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He was quickly transferred to Israel for trial in a civilian court on multiple counts of murder including authorising and organising an attack in Tel Aviv in which many civilians were killed, attempted murder and membership in a terrorist organisation.
Citing the illegitimacy of the Israeli legal system over occupied Palestinians, Barghouti refused to accept the charges or stage a defence in the Tel Aviv court. During the drawn out proceedings, he delivered impassioned and researched speeches arguing that the court and the practices of the Israeli military in the West Bank were illegal under international law.
He never recognised the authority of the Israeli court system from his first statement to the judge in which he proclaimed, “I am a political leader, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, elected by my people. Israel has no right to try me, to accuse me, judge me. This is a violation of international law. I have a right to resist occupation.” Dismissing the allegation, Israel charged him with five life sentences for murdering Israelis and 40 years imprisonment for attempted murder, which he is currently serving.
Since his conviction, Barghouti has done what he knows best; actively campaigning for the reunification of Palestinian political factions. After the 2006 Hamas-Fatah split, which resulted in bloody infighting among the factions, Barghouti organised a prisoners’ campaign with members of Hamas, Fatah as well as PFLP and DFLP that called for immediate reunification. According to those close to him, like Fares, his work on Palestinian unity is a reason why so many Palestinian politicians are afraid of his freedom and a possible reason why he was left out of the recent prisoner swap.
If there is one experience that has the potential to unify the Palestinian people, it is the experience of being a prisoner in an Israeli military jail. Barghouti’s new book, One Thousand Nights in Solitude, is, at its core, a book about dealing with the Israeli prison system as a Palestinian. Reading like an instruction manual for coping with the experiences of interrogation and prolonged detainment, the book breaks new ground in the underreported subject of Israel’s treatment of Palestinian political prisoners.
Israel’s military court system has processed roughly 750,000 Palestinians according to the Red Crescent, but exact numbers are hard to obtain. In fact, any sort of exact information about Israel’s military jail system is difficult to find given its role as one of the primary Israeli mechanisms of controlling Palestinian dissent and nascent resistance to the occupation.
According to a recent expose by the Israeli liberal daily Haaretz, military courts have an astonishingly high conviction rate of 99.74 per cent. Many Palestinian defendants are put through a programme of psychological and physical torture that often results in coerced testimonies necessary in the maintenance of a high conviction rate. Haaretz has also released reports seemingly confirming the widespread belief that torture is widely used and that Israeli military judges are often aware that information used in tribunals is obtained through psychological and physical torture.
“He is trying to create a civil resistance inside the military prison system,” said Majad Abdel Hamid, a young artist and political activist in Ramallah. “If all Palestinians refused to recognise the legitimacy of the Israeli military court system, Israel would be in big trouble. This is partly what the new book is about.”
Kept in solitary confinement for an extended period and put through various periods of psychological and even physical torture, Barghouti’s book details the tenacity required to not wilt under such difficult conditions. In the first chapter, he describes in verbose language how Israel used various interrogators to coerce information out of him regarding senior Fatah leaders in the West Bank. This common procedure was extremely tough on Barghouti since, in the words of Sa’ad Nimer, “they wanted information tying Yasser Arafat to terrorism and they never got it from Marwan”.
Following a political career best understood as leading by example, Barghouti sets out to demonstrate how Palestinians can achieve a meaningful non-violent resistance against the military court system. In addition to the practical information of surviving within the Israeli prison system, he details his arguments for Palestinian political unity as a means of resistance to Israeli occupation.
The book devotes great detail to his three years housed in a tiny cell (measuring one by 1.5 metres) in solitary confinement. It is from this experience that the title, One Thousand Nights in Solitude was born.
Fadwa Barghouti is a carefully appointed woman who has spearheaded her husband’s awareness campaign since the beginning of his current imprisonment. From the same village of Kober, Fadwa is a distant relative of Marwan, sharing the same fourth-generation great grandfather. Sitting in her comfortable office overlooking the Muqata compound where Yasser Arafat was confined by Israeli forces at the height of the Second Intifada, Fadwa remains confident that her husband will be released soon, but is visibly upset at the recent failure by Hamas to gain his freedom. “I know why he was not released,” she told me sipping sugary tea, “but I am not going to tell you.”
Sitting under the ubiquitous photo of her husband surrounded by Israeli prison guards with handcuffed hands held high, she glowingly reports that he is using his time in prison to enrich himself intellectually.
He is a ferocious reader, consuming books in English, Arabic, Hebrew and French on topics ranging from French colonial rule in Algeria to the latest biographies of the former US president Bill Clinton and Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister. He also has a deep respect for the work of Paulo Coehlo and the Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Liebowitz. Additionally, Barghouti has written two books and completed his PhD from the University of Cairo entitled, The Legislative and Political Performance of the Palestinian Legislative Council and its Contribution to the Democratic Process in Palestine from 1996 to 2008. His doctorate, like the recent book, was smuggled out of jail one page at a time and took years to complete.
In addition to maintaining public and international pressure on Palestinian and Israeli leaders for the release of her husband, Fadwa has had to raise her family without a father. One of their three sons is now living in the United Kingdom while completing his higher education. His other two sons and one daughter live in the West Bank and are known in Ramallah for their active social lives and lack of interest in Palestinian national politics. Fadwa’s dedication to her husband is demonstrated in the romantic language used to describe his meaning to the Palestinian people.
“Marwan Barghouti is the natural leader of the Palestinian people,” Fadwa said. “In opinion polls, he is regularly shown to be the choice of Palestinians because of his adherence to the two-state solution, his fight against corruption and for the rights of women and democracy. The people want Marwan Barghouti to lead them in their fight against occupation.”
Palestinians are exhausted from the emotional and physical toll of the Second Intifada. Most express dismay at the infighting that has plagued the political establishment since the 2006 fallout between Hamas and Fatah but offer little solution for dealing with it. There is also a sense that the political establishment is no longer working in the interests of the people despite the highly popular attempt to achieve statehood recognition at the United Nations earlier this year, which Barghouti supported from jail.
“I think what is needed now from the leadership is to have honesty and self-reflection. In a way, this is one of the strengths of Marwan Barghouti in that he is honest with Palestinians. He doesn’t b******* us. We are sick and tired of Palestinian leaders who [do],” said Majd Abdel Hamid, who is part of the March 15th youth movement that demanded reconciliation of political factions earlier this year after the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia reshaped the Middle East. He does not support any Palestinian political party, like many in the March 15th movement, but believes that Barghouti has the power to open a new chapter in the Palestinian national struggle if only he is released from jail.
Dancing around the subject of the recent prisoner swap, Fadwa Barghouti remains confident that the current political leadership is afraid of a free Barghouti. For five years she was told by Fatah and Hamas leaders that her husband’s freedom would come in the form of the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. But, at the last minute, a month before the controversial deal between Hamas and Israel was signed in Egypt, Barghouti, along with nine other senior political prisoners, were dropped from this list.
“I believe that there was a weak attempt in the prisoners swap to free my husband,” Fadwa said, asserting that securing her husband’s release was indeed possible. “I am talking about the Palestinian leadership of Hamas and Fatah. The people have been demanding his release for the last 10 years and they simply ignored the people’s will.”
Indeed, Marwan Barghouti is often cited as a potential replacement for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Barghouti along with Kadoura Fares and Mohammad Dahlan threatened to begin an independent party called Al-Mustaqbal (The Future) in 2005 after Abbas offered Barghouti second place in Fatah despite clear indications that Barghouti would win national election. Ultimately, according to Fares, Barghouti felt that a second party would harm Palestinian unity and ran on the Fatah party ticket, securing a seat in the PLC as a Fatah member.
Due to the belief that Barghouti would be part of the recent prisoner swap, the grassroots movement to free him has lost momentum in recent years.
But, according to Fadwa Barghouti, things have changed and with the release of his new book there are renewed efforts to pressure the Palestinian leadership to negotiate his release. The Free Marwan Barghouti campaign is planning to stage several demonstrations in March under the banner that Palestinians refuse negotiations with Israel without a free Barghouti to lead them.
“The pressure is on the politicians, all the politicians, to release Marwan if they want to move forward with negotiations with Israel,” Fadwa told me. “Palestinians want their leader to move them forward and the political establishment will have to deal with this reality in the new year.”
Whenever discussions arise about Marwan Barghouti in Israel or Palestine, one name is unavoidable: Nelson Mandela. In the 1990s, dovish Israeli politicians and political thinkers such as Uri Avenry began calling Barghouti Palestine’s Mandela. The comparison is not without merit: both leaders have refused to swear off armed resistance, both have spent long periods of time in jail, unwilling to cooperate with authorities, and both have enjoyed a unique loyalty from their people that has transcended political affiliations. Israeli society will continue to see Barghouti as a symbol of the violent Second Intifada, but after his inevitable release, they will likely be seeing him sitting at a negotiations table working to end the conflict and dismantle the Israeli occupation.
After the statehood campaign in the UN that failed to achieve independence, Palestinians are left with a power vacuum and a tough road to reconciliation. Now, more than ever, a leader is required to bring Palestine’s political factions together. When asked who might be the leader to open a new chapter in Palestinian politics, Kadura Fares paused, and took a long drag from his ever present cigarette, “it is not necessarily one individual who can do that with the snap of his fingers. Abu Mazen tried, he did a lot, but it was not enough, but I do think that Marwan could be the person.”
Tekoa’s rabbi calls for firm action against ‘price tag’ activists, says their acts ‘present settlers as savages’
The Warped Morality of a Warmonger:
Why Alan Dershowitz is Wrong on Israel’s ‘Rights’
Renowned torture enthusiast andperennial Israel apologist Alan Dershowitz is in Tel Aviv this week attending an annual business conference sponsored by Globes and, as usual, has been busy equivocating for Israeli espionage, defending war criminals, and warmongering about Iran.
During a speech he delivered on Sunday December 11, Dershowitz opined, “Israel has the right morally and legally to strike Iran just as it did on [the Osirak nuclear facility] in Iraq in 1981.”
This is not a new line for the famous attorney who has worked tirelessly to acquit both aspiring and successful murderers and warcriminals and defend billionaires who commit – and millionaireswho cover-up – child rape. In April 2010, Dershowitz wrote, “I am asserting, in unqualified terms, that Israel has an absolute right — legally, morally, politically — to take such an action if it deems it necessary to protect its citizens from a threatened nuclear attack.” Even as far back as 2005, he told The Jerusalem Post, “Legally and morally both Israel and the United States would have the right to launch preemptive strikes against Iran’s nuclear program. Recall that leading Iranian mullahs have indicated that Iran would use its nuclear capacity to kill three million Jews. I also believe that targeted assassinations of criminals who are illegally building weapons of mass destruction, can, under certain circumstances, be justified morally. I think the legal case would be much harder to make.”
Like everything else The Dersh says, his statements are clearly out of step with the basic tenets of international law and, unsurprisingly, ignore both historical facts and current reality in order to draw his despicable and dubious conclusions. To understand Dershowitz’s warped concepts of morality, one can simply read his justifications for the murder of civilians, as long as they’re Arabs and/or Muslims.
First of all, the premise of Dershowitz’s appalling argument regarding an Israeli attack is the assumption that Iran is, in fact, hellbent on building nuclear weapons and threatening Israel with genocidal annihilation. Of course, neither claim is true. Both theIAEA and the United States government (after years of covert operations and aerial surveillance) continue to agree that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program. In early 2011, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told both houses of Congress, “We continue to assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” Dershowitz’s insistence that thesummary execution of Iranian scientists can be “justified morally” demonstrates the depths of his depravity.
Furthermore, so-called “preemptive” military attacks are illegal and explicitly forbidden by Chapter I, Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter. The UN Charter also makes clear that it recognizes the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.” (Chapter VII, Article 51) Note that the Charter specifies that an aggressive, military response is allowed only “if an armed attack occurs…,” which undoubtedly rules out “preemptive,” “precautionary,” or “preventative” military action of one State against another. Dershowitz conveniently ignores this clear fact.
Beyond that, using the example of Israel’s June 7, 1981 airstrike on Osirak to argue for the legality of a similar attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is not only disingenuous at best, it is deliberately deceiving and completely wrong. The Iraqi nuclear program before 1981 waspeaceful and subject to intensive safeguards and monitoring. The Osirak reactor was, as Harvard physics professor Richard Wilson has explained, “explicitly designed by the French engineer Yves Girard to be unsuitable for making bombs. That was obvious to me on my 1982 visit.”
What Dershowitz omits from his ridiculous suggestion is that the Israeli attack, code named Operation Opera, took the lives of ten Iraqi soldiers and one French civilian researcher and was widely lambasted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the international community, including the United States.
Writing in The Guardian in 2002, Jonathan Steele remindedreaders that “[t]he world was outraged by Israel’s raid” and recalled some reactions:
“Armed attack in such circumstances cannot be justified. It represents a grave breach of international law,” Margaret Thatcher thundered. Jeane Kirkpatrick, the US ambassador to the UN and as stern a lecturer as Britain’s then prime minister, described it as “shocking” and compared it to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. American newspapers were as fulsome. “Israel’s sneak attack… was an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression,” said the New York Times. The Los Angeles Times called it “state-sponsored terrorism”.
Within two days of the attack on Osirak, the Reagan administration suspended the shipment of F-16 fighter jets to Israel because of itscontention that Israel had “violated its commitment to use the planes only in self-defense.”
Ambassador Kirkpatrick, addressing a June 19, 1981 meeting of the United Nations Security Council, stated the Reagan administration’s official views on the attack by condemning it as an “act of violence” that “gravely jeopardizes the peace and security” in the Middle East, “undermines the stability and well-being of the area,” and “threatens global peace.” Despite noting the “strength of United States ties and commitment to Israel” and insisting that the U.S. government “would approve no decision that harmed Israel’s basic interests, was unfairly punitive or created new obstacles to a just and lasting peace,” Kirkpatrick also told the Council,
Nonetheless, we believe the means Israel chose to quiet its fears about the purposes of Iraq’s nuclear program have hurt, and not helped, the peace and security of the area. In my Government’s view, diplomatic means available to Israel had not been exhausted and the Israeli action has damaged the regional confidence that is essential for the peace process to go forward. All of us with an interest in peace, freedom and national independence have a high stake in that process. Israel’s stake is highest of all.
That very day, the Security Council unanimously adopted aresolution expressing that the body was “[d]eeply concerned about the danger to international peace and security created by the premeditated Israeli air attack on Iraqi nuclear installations.”
The resolution (S/RES/487) also “[s]trongly condemns the military attack by Israel in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct,” “[c]alls upon Israel to refrain in the future from any such acts or threats thereof,” warns that the attack undermined both the IAEA and NPT, calls on Israel to “urgently to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards,” and demands Israel provide Iraq with “appropriate redress for the destruction it has suffered, responsibility for which has been acknowledged by Israel.” (emphasis added, italics in original)
Later that year, after the Reagan White House had caved to Israeli pressure and resumed warplane deliveries, the UN General Assembly passed a similarly critical resolution (36/27) on November 13, 1981 that “strongly condemn[ed] Israel for itspremeditated and unprecedented act of aggression in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct, which constitutes a new and dangerous escalation of the threat to international peace and security.” (emphasis added)
The resolution also reaffirmed Iraq’s “inalienable sovereign right” to “develop technological and nuclear programmes for peaceful purposes” and stated that, not only was Iraq a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but had also “satisfactorily applied” the IAEA safeguards required of it. Conversely, it noted “with concern” that “Israel has refused to adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and, in spite of repeated calls, including that of the Security Council, to place its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.”
In addition to condemning “the misuse by Israel, in committing its acts of aggression against Arab countries, of aircraft and weapons supplied by the United States of America,” the resolution reiterated “its call to all States to cease forthwith any provision to Israel of arms and related material of all types which enable it to commit acts of aggression against other States” and requested “the Security Council to investigate Israel’s nuclear activities and the collaboration of other States and parties in those activities” and “institute effective enforcement action to prevent Israel from further endangering international peace and security through its acts of aggression and continued policies of expansion, occupation and annexation.”
Furthermore, the General Assembly demanded that “Israel, in view of its international responsibility for its act of aggression, pay prompt and adequate compensation for the material damage and loss of life suffered” due to the illegal and lethal attack.
Only the United States and Israel voted against the resolution.
In August 2002, Mary Ellen O’Connell, law professor at the Moritz College of Law and Associate of the Mershon Center for International Security and Public Policy at Ohio State University, wrote an extensive analysis entitled “The Myth of Preemptive Self-Defense” for the American Society of International Law (ASIL) Task Force on Terrorism wherein she explicitly addresses the very misconception Dershowitz is attempting to put forward.
“Preemptive self-defense,” O’Connell writes, “is clearly unlawful under international law.” She explains, “The right of self-defense is limited to the right to use force to repel an attack in progress, to prevent future enemy attacks following an initial attack, or to reverse the consequences of an enemy attack, such as ending an occupation” and also points out that “the United States as a government has consistently supported the prohibition on such preemptive use of force.” O’Connell continues, “the reality is that the United States has no right to use force to prevent possible, as distinct from actual, armed attacks. The further reality is that the United States does not advance its security or its moral standing in the world by doing so.” Throughout her paper, O’Connell stresses that all nations are bound by these same rules.
Though O’Connell was writing in anticipation of an unprovoked US attack on Iraq, the parallels to the current American and Israeli bellicosity toward Iran are obvious and identically relevant. “There is no self-appointed right to attack another state because of fear that the state is making plans or developing weapons usable in a hypothetical campaign,” she states, elaborating that “a state may not take military action against another state when an attack is only a hypothetical possibility, and not yet in progress—even in the case of weapons of mass destruction” since even “possession of such weapons without more does not amount to an armed attack.”
In her eerily prescient analysis, published eight months before the US bombing, invasion, and occupation of Iraq, O’Connell suggests that “if an official argument is given at all for an invasion of Iraq, it is likely to be ‘preemptive self-defense'”, and continues:
The preemptive use of military force would establish a precedent that the United States has worked against since 1945. Preemptive self-defense would provide legal justification for Pakistan to attack India, for Iran to attack Iraq, for Russia to attack Georgia, for Azerbaijan to attack Armenia, for North Korea to attack South Korea, and so on. Any state that believes another regime poses a possible future threat— regardless of the evidence — could cite the United States invasion of Iraq.
O’Connell even uses the specific example of the Israeli destruction of Iraq’s Osirak facility to prove her point. “Many representatives were impressed by the testimony of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency who testified that the IAEA had found no evidence of unlawful weapons development by the Iraqi government,” she writes. “Not only did the IAEA find no diversion of nuclear material, but Israel put forward no evidence that an attack was imminent, let alone underway.” With regard to the legality of such an unprovoked assault, she determines, “Permitting preemptive self-defense at the sole discretion of a state is fundamentally at odds with the [United Nations] Charter’s design.”
In defending Israel’s “right” to commit what the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg described as “the supreme international crime” – namely, the willful initiation of a “war of aggression” – against Iran, Dershowitz also ignores the salient fact that the consequence of the Israeli bombing of Osirak was actuallyexactly the opposite of the stated goal of the operation. It was onlyafter the Israeli attack that Iraq embarked on a nuclear weapons program.
The claims of Alan Dershowitz, in addition to being factually incorrect, legally unjustifiable and morally indefensible, are wholly unoriginal. Nuclear proliferation experts Leonard S. Spector and Avner Cohen, writing in the July/August 2008 edition of Arms Control Today, reveal that two days after the strike, “in a dramatic press conference in Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin took full responsibility for the operation, praised its execution as extraordinary, and justified it both on moral and legal grounds. Begin referred to the strike as an act of “anticipatory self-defense at its best.”
Mary Ellen O’Connell defines “anticipatory self-defense” as “armed responses to attacks that are on the brink of launch, or where an enemy attack has already occurred and the victim learns more attacks are planned.” Clearly, as Israel was in no imminent danger of being attacked in 1981 by Iraqi nuclear weapons which didn’t exist, Begin’s triumphant boast was nothing more than a propagandistic lie. The neoconservative, AIPAC-driven rhetoric, echoed consistently by Dershowitz, warning of the existential threatnow posed to Israel by Iran is an updated example of this very samefalsehood.
Spector and Cohen continue:
The message that Begin conveyed was that the raid on Osiraq was not a one-time operation but rather a long-term national commitment. He ended his press conference with these dramatic words:
We chose this moment: now, not later, because later may be too late, perhaps forever. And if we stood by idly, two, three years, at the most four years, and Saddam Hussein would have produced his three, four, five bombs.… Then, this country and this people would have been lost, after the Holocaust. Another Holocaust would have happened in the history of the Jewish people. Never again, never again! Tell so your friends, tell anyone you meet, we shall defend our people with all the means at our disposal. We shall not allow any enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction turned against us.
A few days later, in a CBS News television interview, Begin reiterated this doctrinal point: “This attack will be a precedent for every future government in Israel.… [E]very future Israeli prime minister will act, in similar circumstances, in the same way.” (emphasis added)
The countdown to an imaginary Iraqi and Iranian nuclear bomb is a three-decade-old staple of Israeli and American fear-mongering. Naturally, the exploitation of Holocaust analogies and endless Hitler comparisons is all part of the routine, along with ad nauseum repetitions of long-debunked mistranslations of cartographic proportions.
In April 2010, Dershowitz, after following the lead of George W. Bush by accusing Obama of “appeasement”, fulminated that, even if “the United States is prepared to accept a nuclear Iran…it has no right to require Israel to accept the risks posed by a nuclear armed country that has overtly threatened its destruction.” He continued, “Every country in the world has the inherent right to protect its citizens from a nuclear attack. Israel, a nation that Obama has himself acknowledged was built on the ashes of one Holocaust, certainly has the right to take military action to prevent a second Holocaust, especially at the hands of a country that has explicitly threatened to wipe it off the map.”
Still, Dershowitz wasn’t finished:
The world ignored the explicit threats of one tyrant who threatened to destroy the Jewish people in the 1930s, and he nearly succeeded in the 1940s. Israel cannot be expected to ignore Hitler’s successor, who while denying the first Holocaust, threatens a second one.
It is no wonder that Dershowitz treats the Osirak attack as a successful and necessary mission to be emulated, if not overtly duplicated, with regard to Iran. The reason is that Israel never pays a price for its constant contravention of international law, denial of human rights, and indifference to, if not outright contempt for, anyhuman life that doesn’t fully support ethnic cleansing, apartheid, colonization, occupation, and institutionalized racism and discrimination against a displaced, dispossessed, devastated and demonized indigenous population.
Clearly, Israel has never followed through with its obligations as determined by the UN Security Council in 1981 and has continued to act aggressively and criminally ever since, with complete impunity and diplomatic protection from its superpower patron. The supposed “moral right” Dershowitz ascribes to an unprovoked and illegal Israeli attack on Iran – a sovereign nation of nearly 74 million people whose government consistently declares it has no intention of building a nuclear weapon or starting a war against the region’s strongest military – isn’t even worth discussing.
With his noxious comments in Tel Aviv, as with most everything else he says, writes, and does, Alan Dershowitz has once again revealed himself to be incapable of telling the truth or demonstrating even the most basic elements of reason or humanity in his obsessive determination to defend, and in this case encourage new, Israeli war crimes.
(“Why are you laughing? This is my serious face.”)